Many people look to ‘vegan leather’ as an alternative to animal based leather. Whether this be for ethical reasons or to improve their environmental footprint, people use these alternatives in the hope to have strong and hard wearing products. Although vegan leather does not come from animals it can be very polluting as it is generally made from petroleum based plastics, making those who wish to find something more environmentally friendly often misled or without options. However, due to research into new materials and advances in the understanding of biomaterials there are now new materials which are being used and brought to market, through products such as shoes and bags. Many of these biomaterials are in fact made from fruit, vegetables and fungi. This is due to the strength from components such as their skins, and the fact that a lot of these materials are in fact wasted.
Piñatex is a vegan leather alternative made from pineapple waste by materials company Ananas Anam and was developed by designer Carmen Hijosa. The cellulose fibres extracted from the pineapple’s leaves create the material.The leaves are the main component to the material not only due to their fine fibres, but also because this part of the pineapple is classed as an agricultural by-product, which are often burned or composted. It is estimated that 40,000 tonnes of this pineapple waste is generated globally each year. Piñatex also creates its material ethically, utilising waste from the Philippines and working with local factories to make the material by separating the fibre strands and felting them together into a non woven fabric. The fabric itself is breathable, lightweight and flexible, and can be printed on and stitched.
Italian footwear brand Womsh has worked with apple leather company Fruman to create a range of vegan trainers. To make apple leather cores and skins of discarded apples from the food industry are used. These parts of the apple are then puréed before other ingredients are added. Once these are combined the viscous material is spread onto a sheet and dehydrated until the moisture is removed. The final material is finished, and is then flexible and leathery in texture.
The Apple Girl was created by a smaller scale material maker Hannah Michaud who makes apple leather. They are turning a part of the residue stream from the juice and cider production into the vegan leather. Their mission is to give designers a new option of a sustainable material that can be used in new applications, and anywhere leather is used today.
Mycelium is grown to create the mushroom leather Mylo, by Bolt Threads. Mycelium cells are engineered to assemble into a supple yet durable material that has the potential to biodegrade. To grow the mycelium they precisely control growth conditions like temperature and humidity to encourage the mycelium to grow upward and assemble into interconnected cells. In April 2018, Bolt Threads collaborated with designer Stella McCartney to create a prototype of her iconic Falabella bag.
Grado Zero Espace has created a mushroom leather called MuSkin which is made from the Phellinus Ellipsoideus mushroom cap and tanned with nontoxic ingredients. The biodegradable material is soft, breathable and naturally water-repellent.
The Apple Girl